Web Site Usability
Web site usability is closely related to web site accessibility, and some people may consider them the same topic, however they are two distinct, yet related components of your web site. Whereas the accessibility of your web site determines who can actually access your web site, the usability of your site is determined by how easily someone can browse your site and find what they're looking for.
Consistent Site Navigation and Structure
The most common pitfalls of web site usability, is having poorly designed site navigations that rely on popup or fly out navigational menus. Have you ever tried moving your mouse over a menu item to make the sub menu appear and then move your mouse to the newly-appeared submenu only to find that you accidentally moved your mouse off the submenu and it disappeared? What about on sub-sub-sub-menus? It can be very frustrating. Some web sites seem to have different navigation structures on different sections of the web site. One particular area of a web site might have one style of a menu while other areas have totally different navigation structures. These are just some of the most common mistakes of web usability, and they can kill your web sites' success without you realizing it.
Because we have all been spoiled by the brilliance of Google's search engine, visitors expect to find exactly what they're looking for on your web site if you offer a site-wide search engine, so if you do implement one, you must make sure it is a good one. Try doing some searches on your web site's search function yourself and see if it shows relevant results? Even better, watch other users to see whether they are able to find what they're looking for using just your search feature alone. Many site owners simply install a free, generic site search function onto their web site without the proper testing and tweaking that a search feature deserves. In order to manage a site-specific search function, you must be able to view your visitors' search history and find out what it is your visitors are searching for once they get to your site. Not only will this information help you refine your search engine, but it will also help you determine how successful it is and what sort of content you might want to promote more on your web site.
Does your web site have an error page? The most often overlooked, yet important aspect of a web site is typically the default error page. Many sites simply state some generic message like "sorry, that page could not be found", or something equally lame in helping your visitor who can't find what they're looking for. Maybe they click on a link from an old site, or maybe they typed a link in wrong in their web browser, or maybe a search engine directed them to a page on your site that no longer exists. In any of these cases, your visitor is not at fault for the error, and telling them an error has occurred without giving them any more information is the fast path to web site failure. Crafting an error page with helpful information like most popular pages, a site map, a search feature, or even a support e-mail address, contact form, or toll-free phone number is essential to not lose these equally important visitors.
Analyzing User Access Logs
Analyzing your web site analytics is another key area of web usability. How many of your users see error pages and why did they see them? Analyzing your visitor paths will help you find out how the error was generated so you can fix it.
These are some key areas that are often overlooked yet hurt your web site's credibility and reputation. Let us help you ensure your web site's success and the success of your web site visitors.
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